When a Nursing Home is the Only Option for a Loved One



Sometimes after a hospitalization, a move to a nursing home is the right solution for a loved one. This isn’t an easy decision but finding the right facility is critical. Follow these nine steps to help you locate the right facility for your parent or loved one, where they can stay with dignity.

Step 1: Take a “just in case” tour. Often, people find themselves scrambling to locate a nursing home after an emergency situation or hospitalization. That can lead to rushed decisions and poor choices. A better option would be for to take just in case tours of local facilities when you have the time. Then, you’ll have a nursing home selected in case you need to move a parent on short notice.

Step 2: Sit in on a meal service. As part of the tour, ask to join a meal or at least observe one. Each facility may structure its meal service differently depending on the type of care provided. For example, those receiving memory care may eat with staff. Other homes may have designated meal times or allow residents to eat when and what they want, within reason. Watching how meals are structured is an important component in understanding if a facility is right for your parent.

Step 3: Listen to how the staff talks to and about residents. During tours, pay close attention to staff interactions with residents. It’s important to take note if are they talking about them with respect. If not, this isn’t the right place for your parent.

Step 4: Observe how residents pass the time. While older seniors may have limited abilities, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have choices. A good facility will offer plenty of activities and recreational opportunities for its residents. The last thing you want is to see residents propped up in front of the TV. If that’s the case, cross it off your list.

Step 5: Ask about resident choices. Good facilities respect their residents’ wishes about how they spend their days. Ask whether residents are allowed to wake on their own and if accommodations can be made to allow them to eat on their own schedule. Also, find out if residents can personalize their room. It’s important they feel comfortable in their room.

Step 6: Learn who’s in charge. Talking to the staff who work directly with residents is important, but don’t neglect to check out who runs the facility as well. High turnover in management or administrative positions can be an indication of trouble. Also find out if there is a medical director on staff and on-site. If a trained medical professional is not provided, ask how residents receive needed care.

Step 7: Check references and ratings. Before moving an aging parent into a long-term care facility, ask family and friends for their recommendations and personal experiences with area homes. You can also check ratings on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. But these ratings don’t always tell the whole story. Use this information as a starting point.

If a home you otherwise love has a less than stellar rating, ask an administrator if corrective action has been taken. Some poor ratings may be a sign of ongoing problems at a facility while others may reflect a one-time gaffe, such as leaving a syringe on a counter.

Step 8: Consider specialty care options. Not all nursing facilities operate the same way. Some places cater specifically to those undergoing rehabilitation, which may be a good choice for parents who need short-term care after a hospitalization. If your parent has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, look for memory care units, which are typically more secure to prevent residents from wandering. They may also offer specialized services to support brain health.

Step 9: Talk about payment options. The last step to picking a nursing home for mom and dad is to discuss payment. Private health insurance and Medicare may cover short-term stays in nursing homes, when medically necessary. However, families will need to find another way to cover the cost of ongoing long-term care.

Long-term care insurance is one option, but relatively few seniors have these policies. Medicaid will cover nursing home care, but families will first need to spend down income and assets in order to become eligible.

Choosing the right nursing home for your parents and understanding the cocsts is a critical step toward ensuring their needs are met in a positive way.